Wolverhampton Council have given a taxi licence to a driver successfully prosecuted for fraud by a neighbouring local authority, it has been revealed.
Officials ignored a warning that the driver broke the terms of the licence granted to him by Sandwell Council by working out of the area covered by the badge, the city’s Crown Court was told.
Several other drivers caught in the same purge and dealt with at a magistrates court were also given licences by Wolverhampton City Council, it was claimed.
Aklilu Tedros pleaded guilty to fraud and received a four month prison sentence suspended for 18 months. He was also ordered to do 80 hours unpaid work and pay £800 towards the cost of the case after he elected trial but admitted the offence on the day the hearing was due to start.
The 37-year-old father of four from Eritrea was given a private hire taxi licence after applying to Sandwell Council in March 2015. The local authority – like Birmingham but unlike Wolverhampton – only gives licences to those based and working in the borough.
Tedros, from Gregory Avenue, Weoley Castle, confirmed he would be doing this and gave the name of the local firm he would be working for. Hours after getting the licence he joined a Birmingham taxi company and took his first job.
“He never worked for the taxi company he named in Sandwell and was never going to, ” said Mr Mark Jackson, prosecuting. He explained there was far more work for drivers in Birmingham but the Knowledge test was easier to pass in the smaller, neighbouring borough of Sandwell. Mr Jackson continued: “He never learnt the Birmingham Knowledge and was not subject to Birmingham licensing restrictions.”
The defendant was caught in a crack down by enforcement officers who discovered his licence did not allow him to work in Birmingham. Sandwell were alerted and launched an investigation.
He handed in their badge but was then given a licence by Wolverhampton City Council. Mr Jackson disclosed: “They were told of his breach but that did not seem to matter.”
Mr Richard Davenport, defending, conceded: “He knew what he was doing was fraudulent but he did it because he knew others were doing the same thing. It is very difficult to say how much money he made from the fraud.”
Tedros was told by Judge James Burbidge QC: “You have committed a serious crime. You are a resourceful man who escaped from your country of birth because of the persecution of Evangelical Christians. This was a deliberate fraud and it may be that people around you were committing the same fraud.”
Wolverhampton council has vastly increased the amount of money it receives from the issue of private hire licences after deciding to grant them to drivers working both inside and outside the borough. Critics have claimed the facility is being used as a ‘cash cow’ – a suggestion denied by council officials.
The local authority made over £1.2 million handing out private hire licences in the last year after netting £416,070 during the previous 12 months. In the year 2012/13 it granted just over 600 private hire licences. This figure rose to almost 3,000 last year.
A spokesman for Wolverhampton Council said: “When Mr Tedros applied for his licence with us, we were notified by Sandwell Council that there was a court case pending against him. In accordance with our procedures, We concluded that the allegation posed no imminent risk to public safety and the licence was granted. We have received no complaints about Mr Tedros in the 12 months since he got his licence. We have kept a close eye on the court proceedings and N
“Now that he has been convicted of the offence it will automatically trigger a licence review.”
A fraud conviction would ordinarily result in a licence being revoked, however each case is judged on its specific circumstances and we cannot predetermine what the outcome will be here.”